Struggles hurt Snead's value in the eyes of NFL scouts

OXFORD – An NFL draft analyst who projected Ole Miss junior quarterback Jevan Snead as the No. 1 pick in 2010 says Snead’s struggles have dropped his stock considerably.
Based in South Louisiana, Mike Detillier has owned and operated his private scouting service since 1986. Shortly after the 2009 draft, he put Snead at the top of his board for 2010.
Snead’s return was the impetus behind preseason expectations that had the Rebels ranked No. 8 in August and No. 4 in September.
He threw for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, finishing the season on a roll with just two interceptions in his last six games.
“I thought he would end up the top pick in 2010,” Detillier said. “He was red-hot at the end of last year. He showed really good accuracy skills, mobility and toughness hanging in the pocket.”
Detillier wasn’t the only analyst singing Snead’s praises. CBS Sportsline’s Pete Prisco also projected Snead as an early draft entry and the No. 1 overall pick.
This season, without an All-American left tackle protecting his blind side, Snead has already equalled his interception total for 2008. His completion percentage has dropped from 56.2 percent to 51.5 percent.
And he could potentially have cost himself millions of dollars. Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford, taken No. 1 overall by Detroit last spring, signed a six-year deal that included $41.7 million guaranteed and could pay as much as $72 million with incentives. Missouri defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, the last pick of the first round, signed with Pittsburgh, reportedly for $6.1 million in guaranteed money.
NFL labor leaders are at work right now to try and come up with a new collective bargaining agreement for the 2011 season.
Snead says he didn’t think about his NFL projections in the summer and doesn’t think about them now.
“I’m just trying to improve and do the best I can for my team,” he said.
Given what he’s seen through eight games, Detillier says Snead would be drafted in the late first or early second round if he came out this season. Much of the draft is based on how a player projects at the next level, and size and arm strength are still big assets for Snead.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and his offensive coordinator, Kent Austin, tried to prepare Snead for how different the 2009 season could become.
“We talked to him a little bit about it,” Nutt said. “Kent Austin talked to him, and I talked to him. We told him were going to get a lot of attention. It wasn’t going to be like last season where we could sneak into someone’s stadium and get out with a win. Going back to the last six games, we knew we were going to get a lot of attention. What comes with that is a lot more attention on Jevan.”
Snead is currently No. 82 of 100 quarterbacks ranked by the NCAA in pass efficiency, having thrown with four regular-season games remaining as many interceptions as he did last year. Only one other player in the top 100, Iowa’s Richard Stanzi, has equalled Snead’s 13 interceptions.
Snead has completed 118-of-229 pass attempts for 1,615 yards (51.53 percent) and 15 touchdowns.
In addition to the absence of Oher, Snead is missing his top deep threat from last season, Mike Wallace, whose ability to get open downfield led to big plays in 2008.
Those are not insignificant losses, Detillier says.
“Other than Dexter McCluster there’s nothing you can put a finger on with their offense and say they’ve done well,” Detillier said. “He’s not playing with the same confidence level we saw a year ago. His accuracy skills have been off, and his confidence issues are off the charts.”
Detillier says Snead shows an unwillingness to throw downfield. He attributes that to a lack of confidence.
Early in the season Nutt described Snead as reluctant to trust his offensive line. Although Snead was pressured heavily by Auburn end Antonio Coleman in the Rebels’ 33-20 loss last week, there have been signs of improvement. Play-selection and line play have give Snead ample protection in two of the last three games.
“Our protection is not as good as it was last year, but it’s gotten better,” Nutt said.
In wins over UAB and Arkansas Snead was a combined 37-for-55 (67 percent) for 572 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Eleven of Snead’s 13 interceptions have come in SEC play. In each game that Snead has thrown an interception, he’s thrown at least two and threw seven over a two-week stretch against Vanderbilt and Alabama.
“We want him to continue to be Jevan and not feel like he has to be Superman,” Nutt said. “That is one thing I think he does sometimes. He feels like he has to make a play and forces things.”
While Detillier projected Snead as the top pick, making the go or stay decision a no-brainer, he points out the success rate for quarterbacks who remain in school. Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning all played their senior collegiate seasons.
The quick success Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger has experienced after leaving school early is an exception to the rule, Detillier said.
“I still think Jevan could go pretty high like the late first round or early second round. Some team will take a shot on him because of his physical ability, but when you could have been the top overall pick and you drop that far, you’ve got to come back.”
Success for Snead has been sporadic through eight games, but the last four are a great opportunity, Detillier says.
“I think the world of Jevan Snead. I think he’s got everything you want in a pro style quarterback. You can never underestimate the heart of a champion, and the great players have the ability to overcome hard times. If can fight through this from a mental standpoint it will grow the confidence in his teammates in him and in the NFL people for them to say, ‘This is the mental toughness we want in a player.’”

Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal